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Brazilian Worker Center

Fighting for Social and Economic Justice

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MLK Day Reminds US that Social Change doesn't Just Happen!

MLK Day Reminds US that Social Change doesn039t Just Happen
MLK Day reminds us that social change doesn't just happen, but takes people who are tired of suffering to rise up because they can't take abuse any more. As the Civil Rights Movement broke down many barriers to equality and justice for people of color, it also opened the door to a new era - one where every human being can and should demand the right to be, live, and work with dignity and respect.

On this day that celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King, and his many contributions to creating a more just society in our country, it is fitting to remember Dr. King’s unfailing respect for working people. As he once pointed out, ‘All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance.’    He stood by workers who often had the most difficult and least valued kinds of jobs, those who received the least respect from society and their employers.  He was assassinated in Memphis in 1968, in fact, while there to support an important strike by the city’s garbage workers.

The link between the movement for domestic worker rights and Civil Rights is a strong one.  Domestic Workers were purposely excluded from many New Deal labor laws, including the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, in a trade-off to gain the support of Southern Democrat lawmakers in Congress, who wished to maintain the racist Jim Crow system of segregation in the South that kept African-Americans oppressed and in their place.  This is why two large workforces made up primarily of people of color at the time (and since) -- domestic workers and farm workers -- have had to struggle mightily to gain basic labor protections that generations earlier were accorded to white workers.  

Today’s struggle for equal labor rights, through the efforts that domestic worker groups are making in states like Massachusetts to secure a new Domestic Worker “Bill of Rights,” is still very much an issue of civil and human rights for millions of America’s working women.  Domestic workers are still predominantly of women of color, typically from immigrant backgrounds.  The fight to be included under the same labor laws that apply to other workers, and to gain respect for the dignity of the work they do to support American families and communities, is a fundamental part of what is our newest and most pressing civil rights struggle in the early 21st century:  the fight for justice for immigrants.  

We take much inspiration from the examples set by Dr. King so long ago.  His struggles, and the vision of social justice that he hoped to bring about in the American social fabric, continue to inspire all of us at the Brazilian Immigrant Center in the work we do to advance immigrant workers’ rights.  His vision gives us strength in our efforts to advance domestic worker rights in Massachusetts, as a founding member of the Massachusetts Alliance for Domestic Workers, and in all our workers’ rights organizing and support work.

updated: 4 years ago